The government allowed the massive Friday demonstration in an apparent bid to avoid the hit-and-run street battles that are the hallmark of the Gulf nation’s 14-month uprising – and an embarrassing spectacle for Bahrain’s Western-backed rulers as F1 teams prepare for Sunday’s race.
But violence flared as small groups in the march peeled away from the route to challenge riot police, who answered with volleys of tear gas and stun grenades.
Some protesters sought refuge in a shopping mall and nearby shops about 12 miles north of the Formula One track, where practice runs took place and Bahrain’s crown prince vowed the country’s premier international event would go ahead.
Yes, there is even a European Convention on the Calculation of Time Limits. And yes, Theresa May, the Home Secretary, acting on poor advice from government lawyers, appears to have misunderstood it.
The Convention was drawn up in 1972 by the Council of Europe “to achieve a greater unity between its members, in particular by the adoption of common rules”. It defines the dies a quo and dies ad quem – the start and end of any time-limit.
Forty years on, it would seem that the desired unity has still not been achieved, so instead we got the dies irae. Mrs May and her team believed they had pulled off a parliamentary coup on Tuesday – when, she thought, the dies ad quem had passed – by saying she was going to deport Abu Qatada without any more appeals to Strasbourg. Piqued, Strasbourg seems to have hurried to tell Abu Qatada’s lawyers that they did, in fact, have time. His appeal was duly lodged on Wednesday night.
As Mrs May implicitly admitted, the whole thing was a piece of nonsense anyway, since the end of the time-limit would not have meant that all appeals to Strasbourg were automatically ruled out. She was really only looking for good political theatre, and she got it. But on